Empulse Archives – Electric Vehicle Rider

1 Jun 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Empulse Archives – Electric Vehicle Rider
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The Brammo Empulse – Winning the Hearts of the Motor-heads

Brammo Empulse Electric Motorcycle Review – Can Brammo get the biker’s pulse racing?

Out on the frontiers of computing technology, so it is said, there are only leaders, bleeders and killers. You’re either leading the pack, dragging along forlornly behind it – or slaying the competition with a product that redefines the market, changing it for ever. Oregon-based bike company, Brammo. hope that their fresh-on-the-road Empulse will be just that ‘killer app’ for the electric motorbike market; and the harbinger of doom for the internal-combustion engine (ICE) ‘gassers’.

And if the euphoric noises, coming from those hardened bike-hacks who have test-ridden the Empulse, are to be believed, there’s more than braggardy coming from the Brammo camp. The Empulse really could be the electric motorbike to break the gasoline-fuelled mould. That’s because it manages to up the ante on that most sought-after of bike qualities – the ability to delivery a ride of sheer exhilaration.

Rocky path for Brammo

But the journey for Brammo’s Empulse – up until it was launched on the biking public this summer – has been bent a fair way from the smooth trajectory Brammo initially envisioned. Conceived in 2009, and demoed in 2010, the Empulse was to have debuted for the public in summer 2011. That schedule was put on hold, however, when Brammo made a major design revision – introducing a controversial six-speed gearbox into the electric drive mix.

Now, in autumn 2012, we finally have the top-end Empulse R rolled out – a year late – while the base model is not hitting the showrooms until 2013.

So the obvious question is whether the wait has been worthwhile? Given the luke-warm reception from some in the biking community, to earlier e-motorbike efforts – including Brammo’s Enertia. which first squealed rubber in 2009 – the stumbling delivery schedule might suggest not. Electric motorbikes?

Been there, done that – no speed, no power, no range. But the spec sheet on the Brammo is different, hinting at something just a little bit special.

It sports a double century of headline-grabbing numbers: 100+mph top-speed and a 100+ mile range. It also sports some impressive and serious motorbike kit – Marzocchi forks, Marchesini wheels, Brembo brakes. Better still, the bike is pretty sporty in-and-of-itself – boasting a feisty yet clean look (the Triumph Street Triple was a design reference point), one that would be equally at home carving the streets, as it would conquering the mountain roads.

These are all considerable positives, and maybe enough to get a glancing acknowledgement from the bike-for-fun brigade.

Taking the thrill up to Warp Factor 9



But what may change that mild disinterest to full-fledged conversion is the ride. Electric drives have always threatened a different quality of ride, with their near silent application of full-spectrum torque. With the Brammo Empulse, they may finally have delivered on that for the mass market.

And that is a big deal, given that the market for motorbikes, especially in the developed world, is all about the thrill of the chase. Give a biker a ride that takes the thrill up to Warp Factor 9, and you’ll grab his soul. Offer it for less than $20,000 and he may just get out his wallet.

So what is it that fuels the Empulse with such potential for drive-train conversion among the committed biking ‘gassers’? Those who have slid the Empulse around a bit pinpoint it to two things – superb balance and good vibrations (that is to say, the distinct lack of vibrating, rotating parts in the ride equation). And both flow from the design liberation afforded by electrical motor drive-trains.

Taking rotation out of the equation

Gas engines may not have the mass of an electrical battery to deal with, but they do have a lot of iron-mongery lashed to them, to support their gasoline-burning ways. Crankshaft, camshaft, transmission, fuel tank and exhaust – all of these components need to laid out and connected, with only limited scope for changing what goes where. That makes the ideal distribution of mass into the bike’s sweet-spots, for superb handling, a real design nightmare.

Not so with electric bikes. The main ‘iron-mongery’ here, the batteries, can be configured just about anyway the designer likes. And Brammo’s designers have taken full advantage of that freedom to squeeze the battery bank right into the Empulse’s centre of gravity.

Additionally, all the rotation momentum is limited to the mid-mounted 40kW Permanent Magnet AC motor, and not spread out through the bike, as with a gas-bike.

That means the drive-system isn’t fighting you, as you shift your weight around, making the Empulse a joy to throw around. The words ‘flickable’ and ‘nimble’ crop up repeatedly in the excited post-ride babble of Empulse newbies. Pretty impressive for a bike hulking 470 pounds of weight around.

And remember, that weight is the same dry or wet – no fuel or oil here.

Gearing, clutching and the comfort-factor

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The other feature that makes the Empulse ride stand out is the innovative use of gearing for the electric motor. Because of the flat torque profile of most electrical motors – turn the throttle, and your at max torque – many e-motorbike designers have neglected to bring gearing in. A lot of technical complications are thereby nicely avoided.

But for motor-heads used to shifting and clutch control, the lack of gearing makes for an awkward ride, with a sense of not quite being in control.

And the adding-in of gearing, to maximize efficiency, rather than torque, can make sense in other ways. The motor (which has a relatively modest 63 Nm, or 46 lb-foot of torque to its name) isn’t being thrashed relentlessly, saving on wear-and-tear; the battery can also be drawn on less ferociously, improving range. And the potential e-bike convert has a little less ‘deconstructing’ to do, when hopping from gas to electrons – because everything’s where it should be.

It was this decision to gear the motors power that delayed the proper arrival of the Empulse, as it was a tricky thing to get right. Brammo brought in gearing expertise via an Integrated Electric Transmission (IET) six-speed unit from SMRE, hooked in via a wet clutch system. But they did all the necessarily complex electronics in-house. By all accounts the effort was worthwhile.

Those who have taken the Empulse onto the roads have praised both the comfort-factor given by clutch and gears, and the flexibility the gearing RPM bands afford for conserving battery.

Lithium NHC in the Gas-tank

The battery pack itself is covered by a ‘gas tank’ cover, which hides the 103.6V units, and their 10.2 kWh of lithium-ion energy. It makes use of nickel cobalt manganese chemistry(NHC) to maximize energy density. The charger is revealed by flipping the ‘gas cap’, and can take a standard 110V connector, as well as the now usual EV connector, the 220V Level II J1772. On Level I, the battery is slow to fill up – at 8 long hours.

Level II brings that to a slightly more manageable 3.5 hours. It’s certain that no-one will be throwing around the word ‘nimble’ for the electric fuel-stop.

And many will also deride the 100 mile range (120 miles in the city). While that is a number to bandied about proudly in the e-bike world, many fossil-fuelled ICE bikers may baulk at the idea of limiting their ride to 100 miles-a-day. And this is where Brammo’s marketing strategy for the Empulse will stand or fall.

A longer joy-ride needed?

They have gone out of their way to fashion a bike that any self-respecting ‘thrill fiend’ would fall in love with. They have made it easy to switch to electric, with familiar action, good speed, great acceleration and fabulous ride potential. And unlike with some other e-bike sectors, the motorbike market is one ripe for conquest, because electric delivers what many riders already want, but manages to do it better.

They may even be willing to pay $18,000 for the privilege. The big question is whether this potential gas-bike slayer has enough gain to outweigh the range pain.

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